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Abstract

The destruction of cultural heritage has played a prominent role in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and in the recent conflict in Mali. This destruction has displayed the failure of international law to effectively deter these actions. This article reviews existing international law in light of this destruction and the challenges posed by the issues of non-international armed conflict, non-state actors and the military necessity exception. By examining recent developments in applicable international law, the article proposes that customary international law has evolved to interpret existing legal instruments and doctrines concerning cultural heritage in light of the principles of proportionality and distinction and a definition of intentionality that includes extreme negligence and willful disregard. As a result, international law may more effectively foster the preservation of cultural heritage for future generations.